What I Learned About Collecting Ouija Boards for the 125-Year Anniversary

The patent for the Ouija Board was filed 125 years ago…and it’s been terrifying people ever since. To celebrate, I decided to start collecting them.
Vintage Ouija board

125 years ago today, on May 28th, 1890, a business man named Elijah Bond filed the original patent for the Ouija Board. To celebrate, I decided it was time to finally add a talking board to the collection. I tend to favor science over superstition, but the Ouija is fun because no other board game has the ability to make so many people uneasy.

I mean, people don’t generally get sweaty palms and heart palpitations over Monopoly.

So it was only a matter of time before I found an excuse to own one.

I don’t actually have any money though, so at this point any of the rare and valuable boards are completely out of my reach. Which I’m okay with, because the more common and affordable vintage Ouija boards have that iconic design everyone is afraid of.

Regan plays with the Ouija board in The Exorcist
Regan (Linda Blair) examines the planchette in this scene from The Exorcist, 1973.

The Exorcist was inspired by the true story of Roland Doe, a boy who underwent a series of exorcisms in his Missouri home in 1949 after using his aunt’s Ouija board.

Ouija Board Collectors Corner

Before making the purchase, I consulted the Museum of Talking Boards Collector’s Corner to make sure I knew what I was looking at.

Some of the most sought after boards seem to be:

  • Made of wood
  • Original Kennard Novelty Company boards from 1891
  • Completely out of my price range

The board I ended up buying is the William Fuld design on paper hardboard. According to this page, this design was first introduced in 1944. The planchette that came with this board is plastic, which replaced the original wood pointer that was packaged with boards until 1946.

Also, this board came in the original box featuring the Blue Ghost. In his article about coming face-to-face with the potential inspiration for this design in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery, Ouija authority Robert Murch states that the ominous character was used on William Fuld and Parker Bros. boxes from 1941-1972.

I don’t know enough yet to pinpoint a more exact production date, but at least I can tell my particular mystifying oracle hit the shelves sometime between 1946 and 1972.

OuijaCon 2015 – Talking Board Museum Walkthrough

The Talking Board Historical Society held the first ever OuijaCon in Baltimore last month. It included a traveling museum of historic talking boards, which you can see in the video below.

On a side note, nothing more “paranormal” than usual has happened at Cult of Weird HQ since I bought the Ouija board. But in the event that a portal to Hell opens up in my living room, you’re all invited to the party.

Fractured Skull Shows Evidence of Earliest Known Murder

430,000-year-old blunt force trauma visible in this Middle Pleistocene skull may be the earliest-known evidence of murder.
Fractured skull from the Pleistocene may be the earliest known homicide
Photo credit: Javier Trueba/Madrid Scientific Films

A cavern in Northern Spain called Sima de los Huesos, or “Pit of Bones,” has yielded thousands of bones fragments from at least 28 individuals since its discovery in the 1970s. Cranium 17, however, shows evidence of the earliest-known homicide.

After assembling the 52 fragments of the skull, researchers discovered two traumatic injuries, at least one of which is believed to have been fatal.

The report states:

Evidence of interpersonal violence has been documented previously in Pleistocene members of the genus Homo, but only very rarely has this been posited as the possible manner of death. Here we report the earliest evidence of lethal interpersonal violence in the hominin fossil record. Cranium 17 recovered from the Sima de los Huesos Middle Pleistocene site shows two clear perimortem depression fractures on the frontal bone, interpreted as being produced by two episodes of localized blunt force trauma. The type of injuries, their location, the strong similarity of the fractures in shape and size, and the different orientations and implied trajectories of the two fractures suggest they were produced with the same object in face-to-face interpersonal conflict. Given that either of the two traumatic events was likely lethal, the presence of multiple blows implies an intention to kill. This finding shows that the lethal interpersonal violence is an ancient human behavior and has important implications for the accumulation of bodies at the site, supporting an anthropic origin.

via PLOS One

Charlie Charlie Challenge: Kids Are Invoking A Mexican Demon for Life Advice

What the hell is the Charlie Charlie Challenge? Kids are summoning a Mexican demon on Twitter for advice on life and dating. For some reason.
Summoning a Mexican demon with the Charlie Charlie Challenge

In my family, we have a tradition of blaming strange noises and other mundane but seemingly “paranormal” activity on Uncle Charlie, a mischievous entity whose origins are a complete mystery to me. Though I can safely assume it most likely had something to do with liquor.

I’m sure my family poltergeist is not related to the Mexican Charlie Charlie demon kids are currently trying to summon from his fiesta to play advice columnist from beyond, but it’s still a better love story than Titanic.

Wait, that’s the wrong meme. What the hell am I talking about again?

Oh yeah, the latest stupid craze to take the Internet by storm, confirming once again that humanity is, in fact, completely and utterly doomed.

The Charlie Charlie Challenge

If you put any stock in Ouija boards, divination or demons, then the latest viral trend will probably send a shiver down your spine. Or, at the very least, invoke a serious facepalm. Using time-honored spirit communication tools such as pencils and loose leaf paper, kids are playing a new game in which they attempt to summon a Mexican demon for advice and dating tips, then share videos of their hair-raising encounters on Twitter with #CharlieCharlieChallenge.

How to Play Charlie Charlie

Here’s the Cult of Weird do-it-yourself guide to summoning a demon for business and/or pleasure:

  • Get a piece of paper
  • Write “Yes” and “No” in the boxes of a 2×2 grid
  • Balance two pencils in a cross in the center
  • Say “Charlie, Charlie are you here?” or “can we play?”
  • Run away screaming.

Like this:

We used to gather in dark, candle-lit chambers with Ouija boards, chicken guts, drug-fueled orgies and human sacrifices. Now we’re using pencils, smartphones and hashtags. Please excuse me while I curl up inside the bloody pentagram in my basement and cry.

3 Strange Cases of Missing Brains

What do the brains of Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy and deceased patients of the Texas state mental hospital have in common?
Brains of famous people missing

Brains on the side of the road? Residents of a village in New York were alarmed to discover nine brains along the street last week. An examination by a veterinarian determined the brains were most likely those of dogs or sheep, and noted that one had been professionally preserved in formaldehyde.

According to the report, “Mishaps with preserved brains are not uncommon.

I’m sure many of you in the Cult of Weird community would agree that a spectacularly abnormal brain in a jar, or one whose neurons once fired inside the skull of a famous person, would make a great addition to the collection. But beyond that, what if you had access to a brain that could change our understanding of human consciousness? Or alter the course of world events?

Einstein’s Brain Stolen During Autopsy

Vintage photo of Einstein's brain from 1955
Einstein’s brain

If you had the opportunity to find out what made Einstein so special, could you pass it up? Pathologist Thomas Harvey decided he could not.

Harvey just happened to be on call at Princeton Hospital on April 18th, 1955 when the Nobel prize-winning physicist passed away. Einstein wanted his body cremated and scattered in a secret location. When Harvey found himself alone in the morgue with the opportunity to find out what made the genius tick, however, he decided he could not let that happen.

So Harvey stole Einstein’s brain.

He eventually obtained permission to keep it and study it, determining that it was indeed not normal.

Slices of it can be seen at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.

Brains Missing from the University of Texas

Smooth brain specimen from Malformed
Smooth brain specimen from the University of Texas collection. Photo by Adam Voorhees.

The University of Texas State Mental Hospital was home to an extremely rare collection of unusual brains taken from deceased patients of the Austin State Hospital, formerly the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, as far back as the 1950s. When Adam Voorhees and Alex Hannaford began documenting the collection for their book Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital, they discovered many of the specimens were missing.

The university eventually released a statement that the missing brains were destroyed in 2002 during a routine disposal of biological waste.

JFK’s Missing Brain

Bullet fragments seen in x-ray of John F. Kennedy's brain
X-ray shows bullet fragments in JFK’s brain

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. During the autopsy, his damaged brain was removed and stored in the National Archives. In 1966, it was discovered that Kennedy’s brain was missing. No one knows where it went, why it was taken, or the whereabouts of the organ today.

The fate of JFK’s brain remains a mystery.

Weird Book Club Recommended Reading

What Would David Lynch’s Return of the Jedi Have Looked Like?

Is this what David Lynch’s Return of the Jedi would have looked like? Fan-made trailer re-imagines the Star Wars film with Lynch’s style.

Between the announcement of more Twin Peaks and the mind-blowing trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it seems like a good time to revisit this great fan-made trailer.

George Lucas approached Lynch in 1981 with the prospect of directing the third installment of the Star Wars franchise.

In Lynch on Lynch, he says:

“I went to meet George Lucas, who had offered me the third Star Wars to direct, and I’ve never even really liked science fiction. I like elements of it, but it needs to be combined with other genres. And, obviously, Star Wars was totally George’s thing.”

Return of the Jedi was a pretty dark film, which would have lent itself well to Lynch’s style. He went on to do Dune, which shows off what he could have brought to the dark and mystic elements of Luke Skywalker’s inner struggle with the dark side of the force.

Trailer shows what David Lynch's Return of the Jedi might have looked like.

Though David Lynch never even began production on his version of Jedi, the thought of what it could have been puts it on par with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version of Dune.